Mobile, Mea Culpa and the Brat Pack: 2011 Advertising Trends

bratpackLoved this WSJ article by Suzanne Vranica on Monday about the 2011 trends in advertising.  Not surprisingly, interactivity, personalization and new technologies lead the pack in what’s hot for 2011. But just as with fashion, there are a few interesting themes emerging (or re-emerging, as the case may be) that might look good on the catwalk this year, but frighten us the next. The trend that made me squeal with delight is revealed at the end of this post.

So what’s the deal in 2011?

Mobile ads are getting hotter and hotter. Between location-based services and the rise in smart phones, mobile has shown us how “sexy” it can be – now it’s time to up the game. Look out for more ads that enable you to bypass the store completely and purchase directly from the brand ad on your phone. And you know how brand apps followed quickly on the heels of game apps for your phone, enabling you to compare prices, find stores or even find clean restrooms (courtesy of Charmin)? Same will hold true this year for your TV.  With cable set-top boxes and gaming systems, look for more brands to bring apps to your TV set.

Suzanne also cites that longer brand ads will be the norm, as we try to cut through the clutter and offer more engaging, deeper experiences. Such “films” may also encourage the trend of an interactive virtual product demo, like the one that Mitsubishi did with its Online Test Drive for the 2011 Outlander Sport last year.

Sports marketing will expand in the sponsorship area but more for the “everyday” athlete and not just the Super Bowl. The trend in health, wellness and lifestyle activities will see more and more companies sponsoring lifestyle sports events, like marathons, triathlons and yoga.

Transparency and authenticity – things that Red Slice has mentioned more than a few times – has finally caught up to larger companies. As we saw with Domino’s recent campaign for changing it’s tasteless formula, the trend will be more and more companies doing the equivalent of “checking themselves into rehab” and writing a tell-all about their recovery. Look for more honesty, confession and “warts and all” advertising to be the norm to engender trust and loyalty. This one should be an interesting one to watch unfold!

Other trends involve government regulations on internet privacy and food regulation (please, please, set a standard for what a brand can call “organic" and “natural”!). And in case you haven’t noticed, as my husband and I have recently, commercial jungles are making a comeback. Remember “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz” or the old McDonald’s jingle that still haunts me (“Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun.")? The article quotes Susan Credle of Leo Burnett saying, “Coming out of the depression in the 30’s, happy music became very important.” Oh my.

And the one I’m most psyched about, probably from being a teen who grew up with John Hughes’ films? The Return of the 1980’s! The article states The Brat Pack may be pitching more products as we enjoy an 80’s renaissance. Por que? Well, the country may be trying to recapture the confidence and swagger of the Reagan years to get back on our feet again. Oh boy. Not only will I get to enjoy Rob Lowe in his hilarious role on Parks and Rec (that casting was pure genius) but he might be pushing Audi’s or Snuggies?! Sign.  Me. Up.

Why I’m starting to hate Apple

I’ve long admired Apple for its branding prowess, it’s ability to connect with customers, to innovate, to “think different.” But the recent fight they are having with Adobe over Flash on the iPhone and iPod has got me seeing their brand in a whole new light – and not a very flattering one.

Today’s WSJ had an article about Apple winning new ground in their very public war with Adobe about the decision Apple made to not accept Adobe’s Flash programming – the programming many websites already use for video and animation – on its devices.  Apple has shut out Adobe from its own devices to promote its own tools and its “under development” HTML 5. Steve Jobs has lashed out with technical reasons why Flash isn’t good for its own devices, and Adobe retaliated with full page ads trying to get Apple on its side and garner public support.

I admit to not even knowing these technical reasons. I’m more interested in the perception and brand impact. I’ve never seen such brand hypocrisy in blatant black and white in the same article. Out of one side of their mouth, Apple claims it believes in open standards “like HTML 5” (hmmm….interesting, their own product)  and says Flash is proprietary to Adobe. It may well be, but from a customer point of view (and developers are their customers too) Flash is what most folks out there are already using and what most websites and apps already use. Now, Apple is forcing customers back to the drawing board, or worse, forcing them to maintain separate apps and websites for different devices.  The whole point of “open standards” is that apps can be used on any device and if many companies have already invested in using Flash to date, why not just also allow Flash on the Apple devices as people move over to using HTML 5, if it truly is an open standard?

Out of the other side, the article states that Apple wants to protect its competitive advantage (which I totally get and respect) by preventing developers from creating apps for the iPhone or iPad that could be used on other devices. If memory serves, when Microsoft got slammed for bundling their Internet Explorer browser with their operating system, wasn’t this action labeled “monopoly activity” and an anti-competitive practice? One customer in the WSJ article, Venveo, a web-design firm, says it has to build apps and websites for Apple devices separately because it has little choice due to iPhone’s popularity. Sounds like a monopolistic chokehold to me.

When did Apple turn into “the man”? I guess it was inevitable. Smart, friendly and fighting the “big dogs” can only work as a brand as long as you’re the small dog. Then when you get to the other side, you start to act just like the companies you used to condemn because you can see the upside. And other companies are taking their cue: I read yesterday that the new UrbanSpoon dining reservation system that is rolling out into full launch can only work for restaurants on an IPad, not on the restaurant’s existing reservations system.

Again, I don’t claim to understand the technical reasons for these decisions- but I wasn’t born yesterday: I doubt it has nothing to do with market dominance and freezing out the competition just because you can. My main issue is that Apple is doing something that forces customers to react a certain way, gives them more work, more expense and less options – and tarnishes their well-established brand promise in the process.